Now Siddhartha sees the beauty of the natural world all around him. It had always been there but its image had been labeled as a deception, a kind of veil, before. Without seeking reality, the world becomes simple and beautiful as if seen by a child. Siddhartha’s days pass quickly like this, each sight of a monkey or fish delighting him. He feels that he is finally present in the world, that he belongs to and becomes it.
There are two timelines overlapping in Siddhartha’s story – one, his natural life, beginning as the son of a Brahmin, and another, the journey to enlightenment, which needed a birth of its own. Even though he had been among nature before, even living naked in the forest as an ascetic, it is only now that the actual forms of nature appear to his senses and suggests that the physical world is going to be very manifest in the next stage of the journey.
Along this path, Siddhartha remembers everything about his journey so far, and every word he spoke to the Buddha about his dissatisfaction, about the unteachable thing. The unteachable is now his aim. He now knows that he is Atman, the essential self. The self is neither thoughts nor the body, but a whole summation of everything. Everything has to be listened to. He must listen to his own inner voice. That is how, he thinks, Gautama had gained his enlightenment too.
Siddhartha realizes that the qualities he admired and trusted in Gautama are the qualities of self, not the words of his teaching. His comparison to the Buddha shows us that he is considering himself with the same importance. It had seemed that the way to climb to holy heights had been to neglect the body and ignore the demands of the self, but now Siddhartha listens to his own voice.
Siddhartha sleeps along the way in a ferryman’s hut by the river and has a dream about Govinda. In the dream, Govinda is in the ascetic’s yellow robe and is sad that Siddhartha has left him. Siddhartha embraces Govinda, but as he touches him, Govinda becomes a woman, and Siddhartha lies on the woman’s breast and drinks her milk, which tastes of every natural thing and puts Siddhartha into a daze.
Govinda and the yellow robes of the pilgrims symbolize everything that was keeping Siddhartha attached to the world of teaching. Though Govinda showed him love as a follower, it is a different kind of connection that is going to power the next stage of Siddhartha’s enlightenment, a connection at once childlike and romantic.
The next day, Siddhartha gets a ride with the ferryman across the river and the ferryman tells him about his love for the river, how he listens to it and learns from it. Siddhartha thanks him and apologizes that he hasn’t got any gift to thank him with. The ferryman understands, and thinks that Siddhartha will one day repay him. He believes that everything comes around again, just like the river. Siddhartha leaves the ferryman, grateful for his friendship. The ferryman reminds him of Govinda, simple and obedient, like a child.
Again we see the evidence of Siddhartha’s immediate effect on people – somehow his high calling is obvious, since the ferryman can sense that he will be rewarded for his kindness one day. The ferryman is a new kind of being in the story, calm, unseeking but not a deep thinker or on the path to holy wisdom.
Next Siddhartha comes to a village, where a group of children run shyly from him. And outside the village, he encounters a young woman, washing laundry at a brook. The pair smiles at each other. Siddhartha politely asks her how to get to town. She comes over, young and healthy looking, and they get to talking, about the samana way of life. Both of them start lusting for each other. Siddhartha longs to touch her but he has never touched a woman before. His inner voice calls out to him to stop. The girl now appears to him like an animal, and he strokes her face as you might a deer, and moves on.
As Siddhartha approaches the civilizations of village and town, he becomes increasingly aware of the human connections and urges that he had repressed as a samana. The children and young woman appear as if to greet his rebirth. They represent the natural journey of life, into manhood and procreation, but as Siddhartha’s physical urges are stirred, he resists actual contact. The woman’s transformation in Siddhartha’s eyes shows his growing connection to physical, animal pleasure and romantic love.
Siddhartha approaches the town, longing to be around people. He sees a trail of men and women following a sedan, in which is seated a beautiful woman with a clever, delicate face, a mouth bright like a fig, and jewels on her wrists. This beauty makes Siddhartha laugh with joy. The trail is going into a pleasure grove, and as it goes, he meets the eyes of this woman. He wants to follow her into the grove at once, but remembers how he still appears as a homeless beggar to them. Instead, he goes into the town and learns the name of the woman. She is Kamala, a courtesan. Siddhartha has a new goal.
It is interesting that Siddhartha’s inner voice stopped him from touching the young deerlike woman by the brook, but is very drawn to the decorated beauty of Kamala, whose person combines aspects of pure nature like the fig and aspects of wealth and reputation like her sedan and jewels. She is a new kind of deity for Siddhartha, and her goddess-like appearance (she is actually named after a Hindu goddess of love) suggests she will be an important learning experience in Siddhartha’s emotional exploration.
In the town, Siddhartha sleeps in the streets and on the riverbank. He befriends a barber, and has his hair and beard cut, then washes in the river. That day, he goes to Kamala’s sedan again, and asks one of the servants to tell Kamala that he wishes to speak to her. He is led to her. She has remembered him from the previous day. Siddhartha explains that he had been a samana and he has never spoken to a woman without lowering his eyes before. He thanks her for her beauty, and he asks her if she will be his teacher and guide him in the art of love.
A courtesan seems like a far cry from the sages that Siddhartha has been taught to follow, but the changes he makes, cutting his hair and asking permission to speak to Kamala, mirror the changes that a monk makes going into the refuge of the Buddha’s fellowship. Though Siddhartha is now following his own path, he is still searching for guidance and making changes.
Kamala laughs. She has never had a samana come to her before, though she has received many sons of Brahmins. Siddhartha says that he learns quickly and has gone through many trials. Kamala tells him that he needs to be well dressed, perfumed, and bring her gifts to earn her attention. Siddhartha expected as much. He agrees to the condition, saying that he will agree to anything uttered by those fig-colored lips.
Kamala is presented as a figure of love and nature but also a figure of business. Her demand for gifts tells us that she is used to the transactions of love but Siddhartha’s affection seems to be more sensual, drawn by the youthful color of Kamala’s lips, which symbolizes the vitality of nature, and lust.
Siddhartha next asks Kamala why she is not afraid of a rough samana entering her house. She says she cannot be afraid of a foolish man who does not know about women. But, surely a samana could overpower her and take advantage of her, thinks Siddhartha. But this is not how Kamala sees her body. She compares it to the “piety and profundity” of the samana, which can’t be taken by force, but is owned by the samana. Siddhartha knows she is right and promises that he will take no sweetness from her lips by force.
For the first time, the strength of the samana skills is equaled by the strength of nature and the power of Kamala’s body and beauty. She asserts authority, not with philosophy but with a mindset of owning her body and being aware of herself. She does not look up to Siddhartha but looks downward, as if he is the child person.
Siddhartha also promises to come back with the rich clothes that Kamala requested, but doesn’t know how to obtain them. Kamala suggests using his skills and receiving money for them and asks what his skills are. Siddhartha says he can think, wait, and fast. Those are his three skills. Then he remembers he can also write poetry, and creates one on the spot about Kamala, about how sacrificing to her is lovelier than sacrificing to the gods. Kamala is impressed and agrees to give Siddhartha a kiss for his skill. The kiss is long and expert, and gives Siddhartha the image of thousands more kisses awaiting him.
Siddhartha has spent his love life in pursuit of lofty goals and absolute knowledge, but now in Kamala’s presence he must number his skills and finds that they don’t quite add up to this new currency of riches and business skills in the town. This culture shock is confused by Kamala’s beauty and godliness. She seems at once holy and worldly.
Siddhartha praises Kamala for her kissing and she explains that her knowledge of love has gotten her many riches and nice things. But how will Siddhartha manage to afford these gifts with only thoughts and poetry? Siddhartha begins to explain that he knows hymns and has read scriptures, and at this Kamala interrupts. She is surprised and pleased that Siddhartha can write. Most can’t, she says. Kamala’s maid disturbs them to let Kamala know she has a visitor. Kamala tells Siddhartha to leave immediately but to see her again tomorrow, and gives him a white cloak. When he is safely outside the grove and back in the town, Siddhartha goes to an inn and begs for a piece of rice cake. He is proud when he imagines not begging for food anymore. Life in the town seems simple and easy, like Kamala’s kissing lesson, a world away from the samana hardships.
Kamala’s world and the childlike society of love and business are fuelled by currencies of all kinds. Each gift of a kiss must be exchanged for something else, and each skill is valuable for what it can achieve in town – everything exists in a system of trade. But this doesn’t really suit Siddhartha’s skills. His waiting and fasting and thinking are very personal skills that he has acquired and used for his own path to enlightenment but can’t really be translated into monetary value. Even writing and poetry are essentially connected to Siddhartha’s own personal voice and cannot easily be given impersonally.
The next day, Siddhartha visits Kamala in her town house and she informs him that things are already looking up for him. She tells him he has been invited to visit the merchant, Kamaswami. She tells him not to be too modest, and if Kamaswami likes him, he will invite him into his service. Kamala wants to know how Siddhartha has all these doors opening for him already, and Siddhartha reminds her that his skills of waiting and thinking and fasting have served him well - samanas can learn very quickly.
As we have come to expect from Siddhartha, he has affected the town without seeming to try. Lack of intention, natural charisma, and the radiance of his good breeding and talent mean that even in an unknown culture, Siddhartha finds himself welcomed and accepted.
Kamala reminds Siddhartha that he has her to thank for his good fortune too. Siddhartha replies that he entered the pleasure grove knowing that she would help him. He describes what happens when he makes a goal – through waiting and fasting, he goes quietly towards his goal, and lets nothing in that would disturb his clear path to the goal. This is why he knew that he would be friends with Kamala when he saw her smile at him the first day in the grove. Kamala is enchanted by Siddhartha’s voice. She suggests that the real power might lay in Siddhartha’s charms, and the effect his glance has on a woman. Siddhartha is humbly glad at this idea and grateful for it.
Siddhartha is admiring and authoritative at the same time. He gives the impression that he knows and senses everything before it happens, making him sound like some kind of higher power or otherworldly being. Kamala tries to figure out Siddhartha’s charms and put them down to his appearance but the novel suggests that, much like Gautama, he emits a natural sublime quality that everyone around him picks up on.